"As a lecturer he's no wizard," said one undergraduate about Arthur Maass, "but as a teacher he's terrific." Reports of those who have worked closely with him, stressing both his high degree of personal interest and dynamism, place Maass among the few men in the University who have devoted their lives to teaching as well as research.
But they are wrong: barely ten years ago Maass could not wait to leave the University. He had left his job in Washington, lured by a Littauer scholarship, to study natural resources' administration. "I didn't want to stay," he says, "I wanted to get back to Washington as fast as I could."
Maass first went to Washington fresh out of Johns Hopkins in 1939 when he was requested to become what was known as a Government Interne. Inspired by Roosevek's 1938 effort to reform the Civil Service, financed by John D. Rockefeller, and run by the National Institute of Public Affairs, the Government Interne plan recruited forty college juniors of all-around ability and put them to work for a year. Although the plan offered no pay, for that would have enmeshed it in the Civil Service seniority and protocol system, it offered students a quick way to enter whatever agency they wished.
For a year, Maass worked in the Budget Bureau on water reclamation, after which he received his Littauer scholarship. Just as soon as he left Harvard a year later, the Navy grabbed him and sent him back--this time to "play soldier" and learn military administration. By the time he finally received a chance to go back to Washington--after four years of work as Port Liaison Officer of Yokohama--his attitude on the academic life had changed. Staying in the Capital only long enough to get credit on his Civil Service rating for the four years in service, he returned to Harvard as a teaching fellow in 1946.
Perhaps one of the keys to Maass's consistently high rating in the Confidential Guide's poll on Government I is his enthusiasm for the job; he considers it "the most wonderful course you can teach." He gives a course on Conservation as well, and also shares the honors in two graduate courses.
According to one of his students, "Maass is one of the most opinionated men I have ever seen." He is a strong liberal, as the University of California discovered when it offered him an associate professorship. Maass refused the job because he could not "accept or associate myself with the limitation on academic freedom that governs the regular faculty." When pressed by this writer for an explanation of his refusal, Maass explained that the loyalty oath itself was not the issue, but rather the firing of eighteen qualified instructors for their refusal to sign.
Maass has been accused of dogmatism, and on topics such as the New Deal, loyalty oaths, or valley authorities, he is relatively inflexible. On less general subjects, however, this does not hold true.
Another of Maass enthusiasms is his crusade against the Corps of Army Engineers. Maass has attacked the Corps, which refuses to cooperate with the Administration's agencies or policies, ever since he studied it at Littauer in 1940. So far, he has not made much of an impression on the Army Engineers. Once, after a lecture on the Corps, in which he attacked a General Robbins, Maass was approached by a tall, stiff gentleman in civilian clothes who turned out to be another general. "You said some awful hard things about Tom Robbins," the general said. "He's one of the sweetest men I know. . ."
The latest development of his crusade is a scholarly book with a dramatic title, "Muddy Waters."
Although Maass has given up working in the Government, he has served on such groups as the Hoover Commission Task Force on National Resources--which endorsed his stand on the Corps--and served as a consultant to various government agencies. At present he is a consultant to the Secretary of Interior.
Now an Assistant Professor of Government, Maass plans to continue his academic work as well. "The present arrangement," he comments, "is ideal."